Putting the rock back into indie rock, Washington D.C. four-piece The Crystal Casino Band‘s latest album Maryland House, named after the band’s favorite rest stop off I-95, packs clever and thoughtful lyrics into hearty, exciting rock tunes that have a mainstream flare that should help take this band to the next level.
The best example can be heard on the album highlight “Twenty-Something Socialist”. Written for the jaded, young progressives in America losing their innocence in a world run and being ruined by billionaires (“now the billionaires are up in space to run away by all the flames), the track hits with its message but also its pop smarts, with the dirty guitar riffs and industrial drums adding weight while the vocals complete tricky hooks.
Speaking of vocals, the album is the first of the band’s to feature all four members on lead vocals, as well as having them all play a variety of instruments. This is why tracks like “Boys & Girls”, with its beauty riffs and 50’s crooning vocals can exist on the same album as the country rock shuffle/fuzz pop of “Talking Stage” and the chill 80’s dance rock of “City That Sleeps”.
East coast influences are all over the album. “Half Staff” checks its wild jungle rock with some Lou Reed-vocal stylings, with a synth-laden, tactile chorus that drops a lick of soul into the mix. “Sorry Not Worried” out-Strokes The Strokes in sound, but sounds more positive than those NYC stalwarts ever have (“There’s no more easy living, but we will still get by”). Maybe more in the camp of their influences is “Until the Sun Comes Up”, where a fling with a girl who is already taken leads to some morally questionable decisions (as well as a grand gang chorus and some impeccable drumming).
While the group may rely a bit too heavily on their Strokes influences, they do those types of songs so well, that their divergences into other territories don’t always gel as well. The swaying waltz “Wealth and Riches” has an interesting psychedelic dreaminess, but doesn’t connect emotionally. “Getting Closer” suffers from a similar issue – the monotone vocals over the acoustic island strums has a fun, sing-songy tunefulness, but doesn’t leave a strong impression.
Thankfully there are plenty of other songs that do. The unique arrangement and lovelorn lyrics of “Antlers” (“I know we spent the night before. Wish that I held you more closer”) make it a captivating and heartfelt pop rock gem, and “Quarter Life” is filled with relatable fears (“my family genes give me anxiety. Don’t want to love and leave my offspring”) paired with a brilliant chorus (“If it’s according to plan, makes no sense, goddamn, when half the time we don’t know”).
The Crystal Casino Band could very well be your next favorite indie rock band. Listen to the full new album when it’s released on January 27th, and take a listen to the pre-released tracks here.